*As All-Star Games go, I thought that one was pretty good. Certainly as measured by fan buy-in (as best can be guaged through my TV) it was a hit. Kudos to the fans in Atlanta. As recently as the week before the event, I got an email from the NHL telling me I could still buy tickets to the SuperSkills/YoungStars and the game itself. But the crowd looked and sounded large and loud all weekend.
The SuperSkills competition - even with all the new/tweaked events - was as contrived as ever. Other than the hardest shot and accuracy everything else is so NOT legitimate as to be ridiculous. I thought the breakaway thing was a good idea, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that they're pandering to the masses by over-playing the "popularity" of the shootout. Other than AO - who is amazing, and should be marketed to the hilt by the league - no one really took any chances.
The YoungStars was a better format than in years past, and the players were certainly more into it. I'm not sure it's a great showcase though. Here's my idea: make it the YoungStars vs. the NHL Legends. Two ten-minute running time halves. You pit the brilliance and youthful exuberance of the YoungStars against the wily hijinx of the old guard. You throw Andy VanHellemond out there in a zebra shirt and tell him to swallow his whistle when Mickey Redmond grabs Patrick Kane by the back of his sweater to keep him from breaking in all alone, etc. I guarantee the kids will be able to set up some amazing plays that will have the crowd oohing and aahing, and you can also bank on the old guys yukking it up with some funny stuff too. I think everyone wins - and the league gets a chance to pay homage to it's history - which it always tries to do but it always comes off feeling a little forced.
The game itself was interesting because the West was able to rally from an early 5-1 deficit to make it very close. Some of the playmaking was incredible, but that stuff does not translate well to TV (and, unless you're sitting on the glass, not in the stands either). Again, the crowd was great and the game came off fine, which I suppose means it was a success for the league.
Versus is reporting their ratings were up from last year as well, so that's a good sign.
My favorite part of the whole weekend was the goalies that agreed to wear a mic during the action. That's just a great way to really get organic insight into what actually is going on at ice level and DiPietro and Legace were interesting and entertaining as well.
Yeah, agreed that the Skills comp was too contrived, but the game was pretty good, mostly due to the mic'd goalies. The AHL skills comp was better (more true skill oriented), but the game wasn't nearly as good, I thought.
I didn't watch the AHL festivities this year, though not because I wasn't interested. There was some talk about compressing it all down into one day and I'd be all for that, too, though you'd have to find ways to make it worthwhile to the host city for a longer period of time.
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